How could you not feel
elegant under this chandelier?
Ballroom of the Woman’s
Athletic Club of Chicago,
where the concert was held.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the issue of belonging to a group – wanting to belong, bending over backwards to belong, finding that for all your effort the return might be nil, and on the other hand not seeing those who do appreciate you. This is an old wound of mine that itches once in a while, and this time the Unraveling – Ways of Seeing Yourself class I’ve been taking brought it up again when one week’s unit asked, “Who’s your tribe?”

I understand “tribe” as its own social strata, not as close as family and friends, but closer than acquaintances; with a tribe, there is some group cohesion around a common goal or interest. I have spent lots of time and energy trying to belong to some groups, with little or no results in terms of feeling that I belonged. I was not invited, consulted, considered; my own invitations were not returned or accepted. Why, I ask myself, do I keep doing that? And who are the groups that do welcome me? Do I even see them? Or am I focused on those that give me the cold shoulder?

In an effort to be more accepting of invitations I do receive, I stepped out recently and attended a chamber music concert despite rather forbidding weather, simply because my former boss had invited me. It was one of those group experiences that was unexpectedly easy, friendly and pleasant. I had nothing at stake; I only knew one person, who was, thankfully, attentive and generous. The music was beautiful, the venue elegant, and the luncheon after the performance had me sitting next to one of the musicians from Vienna, who was easy to talk to. So here, for once, I followed a door that was opened for me, rather than knocking on a door that I wanted someone to open.

It was a wonderfully dignified affair, maybe not the deepest social interaction, but that isn’t always needed, right? Sometimes it’s enough to spend a few hours in pleasant company, in elegant surroundings, talking about sophisticated things like a Viennese musician’s concert touring schedule, or cultural cruises down the Danube. It makes you feel special, taken care of, and maybe even appreciated.

Going back to the tribe topic – my former boss is the program director of this concert series, and so she knew people and was clearly a member of that tribe. Of course I don’t know what frustrations and emotions lie behind the facade of a well run concert series, and while she did allude to a number of things having gone wrong, they weren’t apparent to me. I could simply be there, watch her purse while she took care of something, and enjoy an event that a group effort had made possible. And so I’m left wondering whether the events we get to enjoy are those we aren’t intimately involved with, while the ones we help put together or even organize ourselves will be the ones that leave us with a sense of satisfaction (hopefully!) or, more often than not, all kinds of emotional baggage.